How To Smoke Cheese?
One of the most asked questions from people who want to try their hand at cheese smoking is where do I start? What types of cheese should I use? How much smoke do I need? And so on. This article hopes to answer a lot of those questions in a straightforward manner. The best advice we can give you is, don’t worry too much about it and have fun with it! There are no real right or wrong answers when it comes to this stuff. Experimentation is half the fun… but there are some verifiable things that work better than others, so read on How To Smoke Cheese.
What is smoked cheese?
A “smoked cheese” is a cheese that has been exposed to smoke, in some form or another. The most common forms are liquid smoke or cold smoking the cheese itself. There are many different types of smoked cheeses.
The very first smoked cheese was probably Gouda, in Holland in the 1400s (Gouda actually means “smoked cheese” in Dutch). People used primitive tools up until the early 1900s to smoke their milk over an open flame inside of a container with holes on top to allow for airflow. This type of smoker is also called an “open-top smoker”. This process imparts flavors into the milk during this time while it is being smoked. This method continued until around 1910 when cheesemakers began to build closed-top smokers.
These were still very primitive, consisting of a cylindrical or box-shaped stainless steel container with hinged lids. These are sometimes referred to as “batch” smokers because the cheesemakers put cheese into these devices for somewhere between 1/2 hour and 2 hours, then would open the lid, dump out the contents of the smoke pan, then reload with more cheese using tongs.
This process continued until around 1960 when cooling fans on some models began to circulate air inside the smoker while it was paused so that there was no loss in heat inside the unit due to opening and closing its lid during smoking periods. After this time, larger “continuous flow” state-of-the-art smokers with a motorized conveyor belt inside the unit began to be used.
These processes continued, more or less, until around 2005 when some companies started experimenting with smoke generators and “liquid smoke” products. This is about as far as we want to go down that rabbit hole without getting into a lot of detail that might cause us to lose our focus on the main point which is what types of cheese work best for smoking.
What type of cheese is the best for smoking?
One of the most popular cheeses to smoke is Gouda. It’s a Dutch cow’s milk cheese that has a mild, almost sweet flavor and roasts up nicely on some crackers or just about anything else you can think of. Smoked Gouda pairs well with other flavors such as garlic and onions, so if you want something that goes well with seafood then this would be your top choice because it will play nice with all types of flavors!
Another great option is Cheddar cheese which works very well in smoked form because it stays firm when heated properly. People who cringe at the thought of eating Cheddar cheese due to its “meltiness” are pleasantly surprised at how well it stays together when grilled or smoked, even if cheddar is traditionally not a firm cheese like gouda.
You can also try smoking other types of cheeses such as Colby, Mozzarella, Provolone, etc. but you should watch them carefully to make sure the heat isn’t causing them to run all over your grill surface or drip out of their molds while they cook. If you do have any trouble with this happening then switch to grilling on an open flame on a stovetop instead of using a smoker until you have more experience so that way there are no unexpected surprises by the time you’ve finished eating dinner!
What are the benefits of smoked cheese?
Besides the obvious benefits of a cheese that tastes better, there are a couple of other advantages to smoked cheese.
First, it can be used as a healthy “dip” for vegetables or even fruit such as apples because the smoke adds flavor and prevents some of the moisture loss which you sometimes get when trying to grill your food. Not only does it help keep the water in your food but if you’re grilling meat on skewers then adding some smoke-flavored cheese between veggies or different cuts of meat will make it easier to chew and digest while also boosting your protein/vitamin intake!
Second, smoked cheeses don’t contain any added preservatives as packaged processed cheese does. This means that not only are they healthier for you but they have a much longer shelf life than processed cheese too! The downside to this, of course, is that you will need to try and eat it all before it “goes bad” if you don’t want your family (or yourself) to get sick because the only preservatives in cheese are what’s added by heat treatment or by smoking!
Smoked cheese works well for parties since it can be served as a main dish or appetizer. You can also include smoked cheeses as part of a buffet menu with other types of food such as fruit salad, crackers, vegetables, etc. It really depends on your budget and how much work you have time for but having a few different varieties of cheese out with accompaniments such as crackers or veggies can give guests more options when selecting their favorite flavors.
What equipment do I need to smoke cheese?
You will need a smoker that can heat up to about 200 degrees, and maintain that temperature for at least 1/2 hour. If your smoker goes higher than this you should be all set, but if it doesn’t then don’t worry about it because you can “cheat” and add a small pan of boiling water inside the chamber once the cheese is in there (about halfway or so) and close the lid and let the steam provide some humidity for you. This isn’t crucial though; we have smoked cheeses well over several hours even without any additional water sources. Other things you might want to consider adding to your smoker are probes that go into meat or cheese which tell you when food is done via an alarm that sounds when it reaches the desired temperature. These are helpful, but not essential if you know how to tell when your food is done by the look and feel.
Another thing that may/may not be necessary is some sort of fan system to circulate air inside the smoker. If you have one, use it. If you don’t have one then just open the door on the front every once in a while to let some hot smoke out so there isn’t too much pressure buildup inside or on top of your chamber which could blow up your lid or wrap it. It’s also helpful to put some kind of moisture source above your meat/cheese on a small rack so that any condensation will drip back down onto whatever you are smoking instead of building upon the lid of your smoker unit.
A couple of other items that may be helpful are some water pans to sit the smoker in when it is not being used, or some side extension so you can use multiple stacks inside the main chamber if you have them available to connect together. Having racks on top of your cheese for smoking will speed up the cooking process by holding most of the heat above your food instead of radiating back at it from all sides, which results in longer cooking times before reaching the desired doneness.
All said and done, these small modifications won’t break the bank either because they are fairly inexpensive pieces of equipment to begin with. One last thing I would recommend is getting a camcorder or camera phone ready to shoot video footage of your first attempt at smoking cheese. You’ll be amazed at how much you forget even an hour after the fact, so it is well worth taking a video of each step along the way to keep as a reference guide for future smoking sessions.
What type of smoker should you use?
Again, this can vary among different smokers. Electric smokers that use cables or chips to produce smoke aren’t the most ideal for smoking cheese because they don’t always distribute smoke evenly throughout the chamber and you will sometimes get hot spots where it is cooking faster than other places. If you’re using an electric smoker then try adding some Alder wood chunks on top of your cable or wood chip tray before closing up so that the entire interior will be filled with a pleasant smoky flavor.
If you have a gas-powered smoker there is not much I can say about their performance when it comes to smoking cheese because we don’t own any and thus haven’t actually used one yet! What we do know from those who do use them is that they seem to work well and can produce a great smoked cheese in short order when set up properly, so this is another option worth looking into.
Finally, we come to the most widely used types of smokers for smoking cheese: propane and charcoal. These two options work equally as well and in many cases provide better results than the electric and gas models because they both cook evenly throughout which ensures that your cheese will be just right from one end to the other without any burnt spots or cold areas along the way. The only downside is that you need to check on them regularly during use to add fuel, chips, or pellets if necessary.
What type of wood should you use to smoke cheese?
This is an accessory that can be as expensive or economical as you want it to be. The cheapest way would be to take almost any piece of wood you have laying around the garage, cut it up into small chunks and toss them into your smoker. The nice thing about this method is that there are no wrong choices because it’s all going to taste awesome no matter what kind/color/smell it has since it goes through a process that drastically changes its chemical composition before reaching your stomach.
The other option for smoking wood is to use “chips” such as Alder, Hickory, Mesquite, Apple, Cherry, etc. These come in small bags and usually cost $3-5 per bag depending on where you get them and what type of wood it is. The biggest difference between using chunks and chips for smoking cheese is that these types of woods can often be quite pungent and you may not need as much smoked flavor if you use the chips. This is due to the small amount in each bag, meaning more surface area relative to volume, which means you will go through a lot more bags than if you used larger hunks of wood for your smoker……not to mention possibly overpowering your food with too much smoke flavor! Again, keep in mind that all this stuff about balancing flavors is something learned by experience where trial-and-error gets added into the mix.
How to smoke cheese? – A step-by-step guide
Now that you have your smoker built, here is a step-by-step guide to how to smoke cheese using your new gadget.
1) Prepare your smoker by smoothing down any sawdust or splinters that may be poking out of the wood with some sandpaper if necessary. If you are looking for an aesthetically pleasing end result, try not to use boards with numerous knots in them because it affects the flow of smoke through the unit and might cause slower smoking times due to lower air circulation. You can always use smaller diameter split logs instead of full boards too if desired which will reduce cooking times between replenishing wood chips.
2) The amount of woodchips used is exponentially related to how much time it takes to smolder the wood and create smoke, so if you want to speed things up a bit you can use more chips and soak them first in water for between thirty minutes and an hour; then drain off any excess moisture before placing them into your smoker. You can always add additional dry chips later as necessary to keep up a steady flow of smoke being produced during the entire cooking process.
3) Start with one or two handfuls of presoaked wet chips directly on top of the grate inside the unit, then place some dry woodchips around three sides of it just out of direct contact with the flame from below. This will allow air drawn in through the front grill area to pass over the fire, causing most of it to begin smoldering instead of going up in flames.
4) In the meantime, you can start preparing your cheese for smoking by wrapping it tightly inside a few layers of aluminum foil or using other methods to prevent it from being exposed to air before reaching the proper internal temperature that kills any potentially harmful bacteria during cooking.
5) Once smoke begins producing from either type of woodchips used, place the food items directly on top of the grate and begin watching for signs that they have been properly cooked once those sections have been reached internally. The best way to tell is if the cheese has turned a slightly darker color as it heats up which indicates oils are starting to separate from their curd structure.
6) Remove finished items immediately after cooking time is over and allow them to cool in a safe place without opening the lid to the smoker. If you are keeping track of cooking times for future reference, allow them to sit until they have reached room temperature before placing them into storage containers for future sessions.
7) When you’re ready to serve your end product, simply remove it from whatever container it may be stored in and cut or break off small pieces for use on sandwiches, crackers, bread or anything else desired at that time!
Remember that not all kinds of cheese smoke well. Try different types each time if interested in expanding your horizons beyond just mozzarella sticks one day or the next.
Tips for smoking cheese:
– Use presoaked wet woodchips to speed up the process if desired.
– Drying cheese in the fridge before smoking it will cut down on cooking times considerably.
– Keep foil-wrapped food items lidded with a sheet of aluminum foil when not being served from them to keep away fruit flies, wasps, or other pests that might be attracted by the smell.
– Save money on wood chips by splitting logs into smaller pieces yourself instead of buying pre-cut rounds whenever possible. Having more surface area exposed allows for faster burning and less wasted material during use.
– Smoked cheeses can also be frozen for future use after they have been cooked and allowed to cool down to room temperature.
– Remember that cheese will continue to smoke even after being removed from the unit until it has reached room temperature, so be ready with a fire extinguisher nearby if needed during the cooking process.
– Monitor your cheese closely while smoking it for desired level of darkness in coloration that indicates oils are starting to separate from their curd structure. If you let them go too far, grilled or charred flavors will begin taking over the taste instead!
When smoking cheese is there anything I should always avoid doing?
One thing we can’t stress enough is when the cheese comes out of the smoker, it needs to be stored in a place where air can mix with and cool it down quickly. This means not putting in a cardboard box in your refrigerator and closing the door on it because that is really going to slow down cooling and is going to cause your cheeses to sweat if they aren’t placed into an open container right away.
The same goes for smokehouses that have insulation between compartments that trap heat and don’t allow enough airflow through them. Those are great if you are just starting out because they help to trap the heat and create a nice little smoky environment which is perfect for smoking cheese. We’ve done it both ways, but we’ve come to realize that it’s hard enough to get the right amount of smoke flavor without having other variables adding their own flavor to complicate things even further!
How do you choose good cheese?
The first thing that we always suggest is to try and find a local supplier for your cheese. It’s important to know where the food you are consuming comes from so you can discover if they have been subjected to any hormones, antibiotics, or chemicals in their growing and handling process and this becomes exponentially more difficult when the producer isn’t nearby.
There are some guidelines for finding quality cheeses though:
– Look at its rind, which should be clean and free of spots. There shouldn’t be bits of dirt floating on it – those indicate that it might not have been properly washed out once production was complete.
– The cheese should not feel oily either as some varieties will naturally do this as part of their aging process but if there is a layer that feels slick underneath a rind, avoid it. The same goes for any mold growth visible on the rind itself which usually looks fuzzy and may have off-colored patches or splotches in it.
– Smell the cheese if possible. It should have a very earthy odor to it with some grassiness coming from dairy products containing cow’s milk if not from goat or sheep sources instead. Those will have their own animalistic scents to them so inspect closely from there!
– Perhaps most importantly, taste your sample before buying it in bulk quantities online because you might discover the flavor isn’t what you had hoped for when not fresh out of the smoker! It’s not necessary to buy an entire wheel if you can’t be sure what you are getting ahead of time.
How long does it take to smoke cheese?
This all depends on the type of cheese you are trying to smoke and how much of it that you have.
– A full wheel of semi-hard cheeses like Monterey Jack or Colby can take anywhere from 4 hours to 6 hours depending on its size. If the rind is moist, this will cut down on the amount of time spent smoking it since liquids don’t tend to hold onto heat as well as solids do! On the other side though, if a wheel has been allowed to dry out too much then it may need additional time in order for oils inside the rind to liquify again which is crucial for releasing flavors from inside out.
– Semi-soft cheeses such as Gouda or Edam need 1 to 2 hours or until they are warmed through. This is another instance where the rind’s moisture content will impact how long it takes to warm all the way through, but you can always cut pieces from a wheel to check without having to commit too much time in the smoker when testing!
– Soft cheeses such as brie don’t need nearly as long and can be done in anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour depending on whether you want them melted smooth or with a more firm texture left in. These aren’t going to hold onto smoke flavors very well because their composition lacks “cheese crystals” that dairy products containing cow’s milk tend to have which trap all sorts of particles inside pockets throughout the cheese itself.
– Fresh cheese, which uses an entirely different production method, can be smoked though it will take on the flavors of whatever type of wood you are using rather than taste smoky itself.
How should you keep smoked cheese?
The optimal storage method for smoked cheeses is to keep them in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat them since that ensures their flavors won’t get tainted or weakened by warmer temperatures inside your kitchen.
Smoked cheese will last for between 6 months and 1 year when kept chilled properly, but don’t forget about it because once the rind starts to soften the interior isn’t far behind.
Always store cheese wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or sealed inside of an air-tight container like Tupperware where it will stay fresh longer. This prevents additional moisture from getting trapped against its surface which could lead to mold forming quickly on it if left exposed! Also, remember that smoke has a way of lingering around after the grill has been turned off so try to keep it out of any drawers or cupboards where its scent could transfer onto other foods you have nearby.
If a rind has been allowed to dry out too much then the cheese itself will start to crack and look quite unattractive, but it can be salvaged by adding additional moisture back into that area before serving begins. Just use a wet towel or paper towel for this since spraying water directly inside the package is going to make your entire purchase soggy as well as bring bacteria along with it from outside!
Can you cold smoke cheese?
You can, but it really isn’t recommended because this process involves placing the cheese inside of a freezer or refrigerator overnight in order to lower its core temperature.
Cold smoking is meant to lengthen the amount of time needed for cheeses to absorb smoke rather than actually cook them like traditional methods do which is why it’s done well before eating temperatures are reached.
This means that cold-smoked cheeses will take on flavors from wood much more slowly and retain their own taste better too. The downside though is that cold smoking can be dangerous since most refrigerators don’t go low enough to keep food safe if it isn’t consumed quickly enough so you’ll need to play it safe with this one unless you have your very own smoker at home.
You almost never have to worry about cold smoking with soft cheeses because of how quickly they melt, but if you plan on doing anything with semi-softs then here are a few things to keep in mind before getting started.
Semi-soft cheeses can be cold smoked for as little as an hour or two and still retain their flavor just fine whether it’s going onto a pizza later or inside of a round loaf meant for slicing. Just remember that the more time is spent inside a freezer, the more smoke flavor will seep into the cheese itself so make sure you fire up your grill instead of using an actual smoker unit!
Harder cheeses such as Cheddar tend to taste better when cold smoked for around 5 hours since that is enough time for sharp cheddar to pick up a dense smoky flavor without turning it into something else entirely. If you plan on smoking Cheddars for longer periods of time though then expect them to become very salty and lose most of their inherent cheesy goodness!
Semi-firm cheeses such as Gouda can be cold smoked just like their harder counterparts, but this will also mean they’re going to take on the texture of fully cooked cheeses after being removed from inside your freezer or refrigerator. You’ll have to experiment with how long these types need in order to retain their shape before cutting into smaller pieces that are more manageable when eating alone.
Is smoked cheese healthy?
Smoked cheeses aren’t inherently healthier than their un-smoked counterparts because there is no added sugar or salt that influences the end flavor like most people assume which is why many will think that one type is better than another. The biggest difference between raw and smoked varieties comes down to preparation methods rather than anything else!
However, some types of cheeses do have more protein than others which means you could be getting slightly more when you eat smoked varieties in comparison to their counterparts. That is because the amino acids (which are the building blocks of protein) within cheeses can be somewhat loosened up in the water after they’ve been in the smoker, but it’s only in very small amounts that will probably go unnoticed by people who like cheese on its own.
Smoked cheeses are also believed to have more antioxidants thanks to the aging process involved in creating them which means it might be worth trying out if you want to improve your overall health.
How do you eat smoked cheese?
It’s best to eat smoked cheeses on their own since there are varying degrees of flavors involved that can easily clash with other dishes which is why it’s rare to see smoked varieties added into an entree or side dish.
If you do plan on cooking with your smoked cheeses then make sure they’re either finely grated or put inside a cheese powder mixture so the flavor doesn’t get lost along the way. That means no Cheetos, but it also means you shouldn’t even consider adding smoked Cheddar into a traditional cheese sauce for Macaroni and Cheese unless you want to create a monstrosity!
Smoked Gouda is probably the most versatile type of cheese when it comes to being cooked since its shape will hold even after it’s been crumbled which is how most people will prepare Gouda before cooking with it.
If you are planning on adding smoked cheeses to items like pasta or pizza then make sure you grate the cheese finely or mix it in until smooth since there should be no obvious chunks, but rather a hint of smoke aroma that can find its way into whatever you’re preparing.
Why does cheese smell like ammonia when I smoke it?
There are a number of reasons why cheese could smell like ammonia after being placed in the smoker, but the most common ones revolve around how much salt was used to preserve it and whether or not the rinds were properly washed before starting.
If you can’t tell if your rinds were washed prior to smoking then there’s a good chance that they weren’t which means all those impurities will be picked up by your cheese as soon as you fire up your grill! Remember that this isn’t something you want happening so don’t skimp too much on cleaning procedures since they aren’t very expensive and can be done quickly without any issues at all.
Also, make sure your salt levels are sufficiently reduced if you’re using a brining process before smoking since too much sodium will cause the cheese to absorb that smell and turn into something completely inedible!
Can I combine cheeses when smoking them?
Sure, there are many different cheese combinations that work well together, but be aware that the stronger tasting varieties will overpower smaller types unless they’re prepared in very minute amounts. That means that garlic or herb-coated Gouda might be too strong for other cheeses that were not treated with additional flavors beforehand which is why testing out different mixes can lead to success or failure depending on what’s being used.
If you know your favorite flavor profile works well when paired together then there’s no reason you can’t smoke them together as well since it will create an entirely new experience that could be worth trying out before you publish your recipes for other people to see!
Do I have to use a smoker?
No, you can get similar results by using your oven and some aluminum foil which will turn into makeshift smoking chambers that let the smoke circulate while reducing heat and not overcooking your cheeses.
If you’re new to cheese-smoking then it’s recommended that you stick with actual smokers until you get the hang of how everything is done since they will make things easier when trying to figure out how much smoke is needed for optimal taste without ruining anything along the way.
You can also go old school on this one and add wood chips to an open flame if you happen to be camping somewhere without electricity or grill zones that allow you use of real fire! Just keep in mind that this option might not be as efficient as you think since it will take a long time to get the same kind of heat going without special equipment.
How long will cheese last after being smoked?
That depends on how it was prepared before being placed in the smoker as well as whether or not you’ve vacuum-sealed it (which will extend the shelf life by quite a bit).
If you plan on keeping your cheese outside then make sure to bring some butter along since it will help keep the rind moist which makes food go bad much slower.
Also, make sure you package it in a thick Ziploc bag while also wrapping it in aluminum foil, or else moisture will get to your cheese and turn everything into a sticky mess that no one will want to eat.
Can I freeze smoked cheese?
Yes, but we wouldn’t recommend it since it’ll often lead to freezer burn and lose some of its optimal taste as a result. Because of that, only do this if there’s no other option because how well it freezes (and thaws) can depend on what kind of smoking process was used before everything was prepared.
What are good accompaniments for smoked cheeses?
A lot of people recommend pairing them with wine when served together but they are great alongside many different types of alcohol including brandy, beer, and bourbon.
They’re also versatile in terms of what you can eat them with since they will go well with fruits such as strawberries and apples along with meat like prosciutto and arugula.
Smoking cheese is an incredibly easy process that will create several different variations of the same types of cheeses, and it’s something anyone should be able to do if they find themselves in a situation where they need smoked cheese.
Making your own smoked cheeses at home can be fun whether you’re getting started with food smoking or looking for other tasty treats to try out, but make sure you know what kind of smoker to use (or how to improvise) to avoid wasting any ingredients or making something that tastes horrible instead!